Valley Center Cemetery

Serving Our Community Since 1883
Pastoral    Peaceful    Historic


Find "Silence" In Your Local Cemetery

By David Ross   (Originally published in The Roadrunner)


Here's a trivia question for you: Who is Silence Dinwiddie?


Obviously an old-fashioned name. Who names their kids Silence? I certainly haven't met any modern-day children whom you could get away with naming "Dull Roar," much less "Silence."


Sounds like a character from Charles Dickens or Washington Irving. But, in fact, Mrs. Silence Dinwiddie was the first person buried in the Valley Center Cemetery-in I883.


That's about her only claim to fame, actually, although Petei McHenry in her History of Valley Center, California, The Homestead Years, describes Silence as being a "white female housekeeper," mar­ried to Columbus Barton Dinwiddie. The cemetery was established when she died.


Visiting cemeteries can be an interesting pastime. No, I mean really! They are great repositories for history.


And, for some reason, people who take care of cemeteries often develop an interest in history. I've known several of the sextons at the VC Cemetery, and at least a couple of them have been amateur histori­ans. One of them, Earl Brown, recently was elected president of the Valley Center Historical Society.


What is arguably the most far reaching historical incident in American history, leaving out the American Revolution and the Civil War?


Probably the California Gold Rush of 1849-50. The Gold Rush (the first gold rush everyone in the world knew about) mined a stagger­ing amount of the yellow metal, caused hundreds of thousands to migrate west by wagon and around the tip of South America. It acceler­ated pushing the rails of the Iron Horse across the continent and helped to propel the United States to become a world power.


Jennie Wimmer (1822-1883) was there. The daughter of a Georgia gold miner, Wimmer was present when, on January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall found pieces of shiny metal in the tailrace at Sutter's Mill on the American River. He brought the metal to Wimmer, who sub­merged it in lye and pronounced it gold.


Wimmer is rarely credited in his­tory books with being the discover­er of the gold. The original gold nugget was acquired by the University of California and is housed at the Bancroft Library in Berkeley. However, an account of the first discovery of gold written by Capt. John Sutter refers to the gold piece as "The Wimmer nugget."


She certainly never became rich from it. Legend has it that she car­ried around a huge nugget with her as a keepsake, but that doesn't make any sense. Why would she do that instead of cashing it in and living like a queen for the rest of her life?


In fact, the exact location of her grave was somewhat uncertain for many years and her final resting place was marked by a brick on which had been written "Weamer."


It was only in October of 2003, that Wimmer's contribution to California's Gold Rush and to the Golden State's history was finally recognized, 118 years after her death, when a plaque telling her story was placed at the VC Cemetery.


Dozens of members of Wimmer's descendants arrived for the cere­mony, which included an unveiling of a handsome plaque presented to the cemetery by "The Clampers" whose official name is the Squibob chapter of E Clampus Vitus. This organization places markers at sites of historical interest all over California.


Another of the Valley Center Cemetery's "residents" you proba­bly have heard of: Betty Crocker. "Betty Crocker," you say, "she wasn't a real person, was she?


Actually, she was, although Betty Crocker was her radio nom de plume. Her real name was Agnes White, a home economist who, in 1924, became the first Betty Crocker when she was the original host of "The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air," America's first cooking show. White lived in Valley Center for over 40 years until her death in 1979. Her home was on Miller Road (across the street from the ceme­tery). You can find out more about her life and even hear a recording of her radio show, recorded in 1936, if you visit the Valley Center History Museum at 29200 Cole Grade Road. For information call 749-2993 or visit Admission and parking are free.


There are four Civil War veterans buried in the cemetery, and by visit­ing the above Web site, you can find the names of all veterans buried there as well as the more than 550 men and women buried there.



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